If you’ve been following allowing with my wood butchery you’ve seen and heard me make mention of kolrosing. Something I affectionately refer to as my Hillbilly Inlay. I first stumbled upon the technique while researching spoon carving. I tried it and it quickly became my preferred method of adding a decorative element to my projects.
Kolrosing is an ancient Scandinavian technique dating back to the time of the Vikings. Traditionally, patterns were incised into wood and bone then coal dust, hence the name, was rubbed into the incisions to highlight the pattern. The same idea was employed by ancient sailors and we know that as scrimshaw. The examples that really drew me to kolrosing were those done by the Sami people of Scandinavia. This link will bring up an image search for sami knife sheath.
Kolrosing can be simple or as complex as you wish to make it. The patterns can be geometric or free-form. Your only limited by your imagination. At its core though, kolrosing is very simple to execute and you know how much I like simple. The following should give you the basic steps so that you can give kolrosing a try.
Here are the tools of the trade.
Begin by sketching your intended pattern onto the wood with a pencil. This is not absolutely necessary. Sometimes I do, sometimes I just start with the knife.
The next step is to incise the pattern into the wood. A sharp knife is all that is really needed for this. There are specialized knives for the process. I have one but only use it for adding by logo. It excels at cutting a curved line. For most of my patterns I use my trusty utility knife. It works just fine for the geometric patterns that I tend to favor. Don’t forget to make use of any tool that you have at your disposal. Gouges and awls are another favorite of mine.
Now its time to add the colorant. My preferred colorant is instant coffee crystals. Their cheap and work great to produce a black line. Just about any fine powered substance will work. Paprika will produce a reddish-brown line and cinnamon will produce a dark brown line. Whatever you decide to use rub it in with a circular motion to ensure that the colorant is driven into the incised lines.
Once you’ve added the colorant, give the surface a light sanding. When you incise the pattern you will raise areas along the incisions. A light sanding levels these out.
All that remains is to add the finish of your choice. The finish will wet the colorant and bring out the contrast. The effect can be dramatic. I can attest to using oils and shellac without any issues. If you plan to use something else please do a test piece. The first thought most people have is that the act of applying the finish will drag the colorant out of the incisions. I’ve applied finish over the kolrosing with both a rag and a brush and I have never had that happen. This example piece received a wiping coat of BLO.
Here are some of my examples. They are very basic but should give you an idea of how kolrosing can enhance the look of your projects.
If you have any questions just ask. I’ll try to help the best that I can. I hope that you give kolrosing a try. It’s a handy technique to have at your disposal.